Connolly Calls On FTA to Immediately Release Metro Funds and Adopt GAO Report Recommendations
Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, Vice Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, released the following statement on today’s release of the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s report on how the Federal Transit Administration can strengthen oversight safety:
“This GAO report finds that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) does not have its own house in order regarding guidance for state transit safety agencies. GAO found that FTA does not have a plan or timeline to develop critical guidance for transit safety inspection regimes. This is particularly maddening given that FTA is currently withholding vital federal transit funding from Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC after the three jurisdictions were unable to establish a new state safety agency for WMATA before the arbitrary deadline mandated by FTA.
“In September 2015, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that the Federal Railroad Administration assume regulatory oversight of WMATA. I agreed with that recommendation and disagreed with the decision by then-Secretary Foxx to hand over safety oversight to the FTA. I shared the NTSB’s concerns that FTA lacked the expertise, authorities, and resources to conduct safety oversight for WMATA. This report finds that FTA’s lack of established guidance on risk-based inspections and failure to develop a methodology to evaluate safety agency enforcement authorities could cause safety deficiencies to “remain for long periods of time, potentially contributing to safety incidents.
“The FTA needs to release the funds it is withholding from Virginia, Maryland, and DC, and act upon these GAO recommendations immediately.”
The full report can be found here. In the report, GAO recommended that FTA:
(1) create a plan, with timeline, for developing risk-based inspection guidance for state safety agencies, and;
(2) develop and communicate a method for how FTA will monitor whether state safety agencies' enforcement practices are effective.
Representatives Connolly, Cummings, Chaffetz, Mica, Duckworth, and Meadows requested the GAO report in July 2016 following the Department of Transportation’s October 2015 decision to designate FTA as the lead agency in providing oversight to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Agency (WMATA). In June 2017, Connolly sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Chao requesting she reverse the FTA decision to withhold five percent of federal transit grants from the Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.